IN­SIDE: Seven days of TV view­ing

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - DEB­BIE SCHIPP Aus­tralian Story, ABC1, Mon­day, 8pm

ME­DIA maven Ita But­trose was brought back into the spot­light this year thanks to hit tele­vi­sion drama Pa­per Gi­ants:

The Birth of Cleo.

Now But­trose is hap­pily tak­ing cen­tre stage as the sub­ject of a two-part

Aus­tralian Story on the ABC. In the doc­u­men­tary, ti­tled Ita Tells Me So, But­trose is at her can­did and in­trigu­ing best as she tells of her days at the heart of pub­lish­ing from work­ing along­side Kerry Packer, her close friend­ship with the me­dia mogul, her tough man­age­ment style, and see­ing mem­bers of her fam­ily un­der the me­dia’s glare. It’s pure But­trose – forth­right, hu­mor­ous, opin­ion­ated, warm and can­did.

And But­trose couldn’t be happier.

Asked what it’s like to be back in the spot­light, she of­fers a hearty: ‘‘ Won­der­ful. I

don’t think I’ve

ever been as busy. I think I’ve been re­dis­cov­ered. And it’s funny in a way be­cause I haven’t been any­where.’’

Pro­duc­ers of the show say But­trose was fear­less as the doc­u­men­tary came to­gether, and they quickly re­alised they had way too much to edit into a sin­gle episode.

The re­sult is frank ob­ser­va­tions of But­trose’s life, ex­tend­ing far be­yond the slice which was cov­ered in

Pa­per Gi­ants.

On leav­ing Packer’s em­ploy­ment, But­trose is typ­i­cally suc­cinct.

‘‘ Of course he was go­ing to go bal­lis­tic. I knew that,’’ But­trose says.

She says the Aus­tralian Story au­di­ence may be sur­prised by some of the in­sights into Packer.

‘‘ I al­ways ad­mired Kerry’s en­trepreneur­ship. We shared some great suc­cesses. We built Cleo from noth­ing,’’ she says.

‘‘ Re­mem­ber his fa­ther, Sir Frank [ Packer], didn’t think Cleo would work. He sent me that ex­tra­or­di­nary tele­gram: ‘ Good luck with this ven­ture, I think you’ll need it’.

‘‘ Re­search said Cleo would fail. If it had failed I reckon Sir Frank would have sent Kerry and me a con­crete over­coat and had us dropped in the har­bour.

‘‘ I’ve al­ways been glad I started my ca­reer at a com­pany that en­cour­aged women to aim for the top.

‘‘ Kerry used to tell me that he had grown up see­ing women run­ning

The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly, then the flag­ship of the Packer em­pire, and a mighty cash cow.

‘‘ It never oc­curred to him to think that women weren’t tal­ented and com­pe­tent.’’

His en­light­ened think­ing will prob­a­bly come as some­thing of a sur­prise to

Aus­tralian Story’s au­di­ence. But­trose says part of her suc­cess came from al­ways putting her hand up.

‘‘ At 23, I be­came women’s edi­tor of the Daily Tele­graph and Sun­day

Tele­graph women’s pages,’’ she says in the doc­u­men­tary.

‘‘ Some of the staff quit. They thought I was too young.

‘‘ I sup­pose when you think about it, it was quite pre­sump­tu­ous of me to write to Sir Frank and say I want this job.’’

Pro­duc­ers of the show got the sense that this is the last word from the ir­re­press­ible But­trose, now near­ing her 70th year, as she sets the record straight on a range of is­sues and ex­pe­ri­ences.

But­trose says she has al­ways been frank ‘‘ so I am not sure how I could be any franker than I was in the past’’.

For Pa­per Gi­ants, the show that reignited in­ter­est in her, But­trose has the high­est praise.

‘‘ It cap­tured beau­ti­fully the ex­tra­or­di­nary changes that were tak­ing place in Aus­tralia in the ’ 70s,’’ she says.

Her high­est praise is for Asher Ked­die, the ac­tor who played But­trose in Pa­per Gi­ants to crit­i­cal ac­claim.

‘‘ When Asher spoke I thought ‘ I know that voice’,’’ But­trose says. ‘‘ She cap­tured my walk and my ges­tures.

‘‘ Not sure about her lisp­ing though. It was good but I don’t think I lisped – or still lisp – quite that much. Maybe I did.

‘‘ One thing I do know, I have never been ashamed of the way I speak.’’

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